Archive for October, 2011

Three thoughts from Dawson-Hopkins

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Bernard Hopkins was unable to continue after separating his shoulder in the second round of his light heavyweight title fight with Chad Dawson. (AP)

Three thoughts from Chad Dawson’s controversial second-round TKO of Bernard Hopkins for the light heavyweight title Saturday in Los Angeles:

1. It should have been ruled a no decision. Never in 60 pro fights had Hopkins been stopped inside the distance. No longer. When the 46-year-old Philadelphian leaned over Dawson after uncoiling an overhand right early in the second round, the 29-year-old challenger lifted Hopkins into the air and dumped him onto the canvas — a move that appeared to separate the champion’s left shoulder. (X-rays taken at California Hospital Medical Center later confirmed Hopkins separated the acromioclavicular joint which connects the collar bone and shoulder blade.) According to the unified rules of boxing, a fight should be ruled a no decision if an accidental foul causes an injury before the end of four rounds. (Not a no contest, but essentially the same thing.) Still, referee Pat Russell immediately ruled it a technical knockout, denying any foul and never even giving Hopkins the opportunity to continue fighting. “Today’s what’s makes boxing wrong,” said a despondent Hopkins (52-6-3, 32 KOs), who lost his WBC and Ring magazine titles. “They want me out of boxing, this is one of the ways to do it.”

2. Dawson’s championship is subject to scrutiny. Dawson (31-1, 18 KOs) said “I’m the champion” so many times after the official ruling was announced to cascades of boos from the 8,421 at Staples Center, it seemed as if he were trying to convince himself. The New Haven, Conn., native was happy to posture as if he’d been blowing Hopkins out, when really Hopkins had been forcing the challenger to fight at his methodical pace through the first five minutes. “He says he a gangsta,” Dawson taunted. “A gangsta would have got up and fought like a man.” The new champion laughed off the mere suggestion of a rematch. That he’d be so content to rob Hopkins of a belt so he can move on to a return match with Jean Pascal (his lone conqueror) is unfortunate. Not boxing’s finest night.

3. This will be overturned. What the sanctioning bodies can or can’t do is subject to perpetual debate, but it seems hard to imagine the result will stand given the photographic evidence in Hopkins’ favor. Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer promised a protest will be filed, which could potentially supersede the ruling of Russell, who was scurried away before he could be grilled by the media. The entire episode evoked memories of Hopkins’ second fight with Antwun Echols, when he was thrown down to the canvas in the sixth round. In that 2000 match, Hopkins could have retired with the victory; instead he fought on and knocked out Echols in the 10th. The resolution of Saturday’s fight offered far less clarity. “He picked me off my feet,” Hopkins groused. “This ain’t the UFC. Football come up tomorrow.”

– Bryan Armen Graham

  • Published On Oct 16, 2011
  • Hershman to be named HBO Sports president

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    Ken Hershman (above) oversaw a period of impressive growth while in charge of Showtime's sports department. (Ed Mulholland/US Presswire)

    NEW YORK — HBO is set to name Showtime’s Ken Hershman as President of HBO Sports, sources told Hershman will replace Ross Greenburg, who resigned in July.

    In a statement, Showtime confirmed Hershman has left the company.

    Hershman has been with Showtime since 1992, rising from an attorney with the network to the head of the sports department in 2003.

    Since 2005, Hershman has taken Showtime from a boxing-heavy programming to include mixed martial arts and successful programs Inside the NFL and Inside NASCAR, as well as several feature documentaries.

    Among the candidates who could replace Hershman is Lou DiBella, the former head of HBO Sports, who currently runs his own boxing promotional company.

    – Chris Mannix

  • Published On Oct 13, 2011
  • Odds set on David Haye’s next career move

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    Former heavyweight titleholder David Haye retired from boxing Thursday on his 31st birthday, staying true to a promise he made when he started out as a fighter.

    Whether the retirement is genuine or merely a ploy to finalize contract negotiations with Vitali Klitschko remains to be seen, though Haye denied suggestions of gamesmanship.

    So what’s next for the loquacious Londoner, whose most recent outing was a lopsided decision loss to Wladimir Klitschko in July? British oddsmaker William Hill opened action on Haye’s next career move within hours of the announcement.

    Hill installed Haye at 6/1 to fight in WWE and 8/1 to switch to mixed martial arts and join the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

    Should he turn to entertainment, Haye is 3/1 to appear on I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here!, 7/1 to skate on Dancing on Ice and 8/1 to tango on Strictly Come Dancing (where other British punchers have enjoyed mixed results).

    Haye also opens at 50/1 to succeed Daniel Craig as the next James Bond and 250/1 to win the 2012 London mayoral election.

    Since it would surprise exactly no one if Haye came out of retirement to fight Vitali, who holds the WBC heavyweight title, the oddsmaker installed the brash two-division champion as a 4/1 underdog to defeat the elder Klitschko brother.

    “Haye is an even bigger price to defeat Vitali than he was when he took on Wladimir and if he will have to make sure that he is serious about the challenge if he is to avoid a double Klitschko KO,” William Hill spokesman Joe Crilly said.

    – Bryan Armen Graham

  • Published On Oct 13, 2011
  • Kessler hurt, Bute-Johnson still on for Nov. 5

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    Mikkel Kessler sustained an injury to his right hand during training, forcing him to postpone his Nov. 5 fight with WBO super middleweight champion Robert Stieglitz.

    Kessler (44-2, 33 KOs), a former two-time super middleweight champion, had been scheduled to fight Stieglitz in the first bout of Showtime’s split-site telecast of the Lucien Bute-Glen Johnson fight in Quebec City.

    Sauerland Promotions, which promotes Kessler, said the fight will be rescheduled for early 2012.

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  • Published On Oct 11, 2011
  • Stock Watch: UFC 136

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    Frankie Edgar (right) scored a fourth-round knockout of longtime rival Gray Maynard to defend his UFC lightweight title on Saturday in Houston. (AP)

    Finally, some clarity.

    The belt still resides around lightweight champ Frankie Edgar’s waist following his trilogy with Gray Maynard in the main event of Saturday’s UFC 136, and finally, business can resume in the store of available contenders. The queue got shorter early in the evening when Melvin Guillard tapped to Joe Lauzon in 47 seconds flat to halt his title bid. That puts the focus squarely on the result of two upcoming bouts: Ben Henderson vs. Clay Guida, which is set as the co-main for UFC on FOX 1, and Gilbert Melendez vs. Jorge Masvidal, which headlines a yet-unannounced Strikeforce card set for Dec. 17.

    The more compelling of the winners is likely to get the first crack at Edgar, who will take some much-needed recovery time as the title picture comes into focus. A small caveat: The lesser-known Masvidal won’t get the shot if he manages to upset Melendez, who’s been waging a long P.R. campaign for a crossover and has the ear of UFC president Dana White.

    That should occupy Edgar for the next year, but if he’s not vacating the belt for featherweight — and I’m guessing he’s not any time soon — there’s a long list of tough guys within reach. Should be an interesting 2012.

    And now, here’s a stockwatch. Buys on the list should be as surprising as a cageside sighting of Steven Seagal.


    Frankie Edgar (14-1-1): With a champion’s mix of guts and skill, Edgar is the toughest guy on the Jersey shore and, maybe, inside the octagon. I wouldn’t put him at No. 2 in the pound-for-pound rankings, but No. 3 looks about right. He’s now beaten Maynard, B.J. Penn (twice), former champ Sean Sherk, Tyson Griffin, Jim Miller, and done so at a physical disadvantage that veers toward criminal in boxing. The 170-if-he’s-been-to-Buca-di-Beppo Edgar proceeds like it’s nothing. Maynard had him dead to rights on a takedown when he overextended a punch in the fourth. It was perfectly timed, and he sprawled and stuffed a guy who cuts from a minimum of 175 pounds.

    About that weight: It’s not surprising that concern for Edgar’s long-term well being has underscored the second defense of his belt. When I think of the damage he took in the first round from the bigger Maynard, I remember lightweight Antonio McKee, the king of wrestling “blankets,” telling me how much time he lost when he tried, for once, to be a gunslinger and how much time he lost when his opponent cracked him. I remember welterweight Rory Markham telling me he heard cartoons when he took a stiff punch. I remember another very popular welterweight that shall go unnamed tell me he lost his sense of smell for a month after getting kicked in the head.

    The point is, the brain is a fragile device, as we’re well aware in this era of chronic traumatic encephalopathy. Shots like those set the timer running and punch the punchcard. How long one fighter remains unaffected is left to the mysteries of the brain. What we do know, however, is that at some point, there’s nothing left. The 29-year-old Edgar’s card has two punches, probably more. That will in all likelihood make him increasingly susceptible to brief lapses of consciousness upon contact with his jaw. Will 10 fewer pounds protect him? Maybe. It may also have absolutely no bearing. Edgar is doing more than fine at lightweight. Change is more likely to come from a blow to the ego (a loss) or financial incentive (Uncle Dana).

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  • Published On Oct 10, 2011
  • UFC in violation of anti-trust laws?

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    If anyone might have an interest in an anti-trust investigation against the UFC, it's Jon Fitch -- but he could be better served by a fighters' union. (AP)

    An unlikely source is criticizing the UFC. It’s not a fighter unhappy with his contract or an agent who thinks his client deserves a title shot.

    No, it’s a group of cooks.

    As reported in a post on The Economist‘s Game Theory blog, Culinary Workers Union Local 226, a Las Vegas-based trade union that represents 60,000 hotel and casino employees, has written a letter to the Federal Trade Commission asking them to investigate the UFC for “widespread anti-competitive practices.” It also suggests that the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act — a law passed in 2000 to protect boxers from greedy promoters and sanctioning bodies since there is no single governing organization in boxing — could possibly be expanded to mixed martial arts.

    The key difference between the Ultimate Fighting Championship and other top-level professional sports leagues in America is UFC fighters aren’t unionized. Expanding the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act to MMA would give fighters more freedom, and therefore more leverage, which might be a good thing. To see a UFC fighter who could use some more leverage one needs look no further than consensus No. 1 welterweight contender Jon Fitch.

    Fitch was briefly cut by the UFC when he refused to sign a lifetime contract with THQ to be included in the UFC Undisputed video-game franchise. Although he was uncomfortable giving THQ his lifetime video rights, Fitch relented when he realized his choice was sign the contract or never fight in the UFC again. UFC commissioner Dana White re-signed the welterweight after he agreed to the contract with THQ.

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  • Published On Oct 07, 2011
  • Sonnen, Stann fight for right to dethrone Silva

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    Chael Sonnen (top) pushed Anderson Silva to the limit when they fought at UFC 117 in August 2010, but Silva rallied brilliantly in the final reel. (AP)

    Two things you need to know about Chael Sonnen: He can take down Anderson Silva at will, and he’s found life outside of the octagon to be a lot more difficult.

    Saturday’s fight marks Sonnen’s return to action for the first time since he was submitted by Silva in the fifth round of a UFC 117 title fight that, had it gone the distance, he no doubt would have won by decision.

    If anyone can beat Silva, widely regarded as MMA’s pound-for-pound kingpin, it’s Sonnen.

    Since he lost in his first attempt to dethrone Silva, Sonnen has been fined for elevated testosterone levels and convicted of felony real estate fraud.

    “I’m happy [to be back],” Sonnen said. “I got put in timeout for a while and I’m glad that’s all over.”

    His welcome-back present is a fight with Brian Stann. If the UFC ever wanted to promote a fight as good guy vs. bad guy, this is the one. Sonnen’s criminal record and steroid allegations make fellow UFC villains Rashad Evans and Josh Koscheck look like choir boys.

    Stann, on the other hand, is a former Marine who earned a Silver Star in Iraq, the president of the charity Hire Heroes — which helps get war veterans civilian jobs — and the man in the way of a Sonnen-Silva rematch.

    “It’s definitely a fight I’d love to see,” said Stann. “But I’m not willing to lose a fight to see it.”

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  • Published On Oct 07, 2011
  • Pettis ready to earn ‘Showtime’ nickname

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    Former WEC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis (right), a student of Jeff “Duke” Roufus, faces Jeremy Stephens at UFC 136 in Houston. (AP)

    It started out as a joke. Then it became a back tattoo and the name of a bar.

    Now it’s a nickname that Anthony Pettis has to earn back Saturday, when he faces Jeremy Stephens at UFC 136 (9 p.m. ET, PPV).

    For a while Anthony Pettis, the final WEC lightweight champion before the promotion was absorbed into the UFC, was “Showtime.” He’s famous for a running kick off the cage against Ben Henderson that looked like it belonged in The Matrix rather than the octagon.

    Pettis’ exciting striking style has made him the poster child for one of the most exciting striking gyms in MMA, Roufusport in Milwaukee, where kickboxing legend Jeff “Duke” Roufus is head trainer.

    “I just know what the UFC wants and what their promoters want,” Roufus said during a phone interview last week. “The one thing you can count on fighting one of our guys is you’re going to be in a fight.”

    Roufus is known for an exciting brand of striking unlike anything else in the UFC. Alan Belcher propelling himself off of the cage to land a superman punch against Yoshihiro Akiyama and Pettis’ flying head kick are the examples that have caused fans to spill their beer at the Showtime Bar and Grill co-owned by Roufus and Pettis. Strikers using the cage well, something grapplers in the UFC have done for a long time, is a trademark of the Roufusport brand of striking which has revolutionized MMA.

    “If I were to die today I’d love to be remembered as the Vince Lombardi of mixed martial arts,” Roufus said.

    For that to happen Anthony Pettis needs to be Roufus’ 1966 Green Bay Packers.

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  • Published On Oct 06, 2011
  • Edgar, Maynard to complete unlikely trilogy

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    Gray Maynard knocks down Frankie Edgar during the first round of their second meeting on New Year's Day 2011. The two complete their trilogy Saturday. (AP)

    After seeing the first fight between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard, I felt certain of two things: 1) Maynard was the superior lightweight, and 2) No one who valued money would pay to see them fight each other two more times. I guess it just goes to show how wrong I can be when I really put my mind to it.

    If you’d told me back in 2008 that Edgar-Maynard would be a trilogy that fight fans would not only enjoy, but almost unanimously view as being totally worth a 10-month wait for the conclusion, I would have advised you not to operate any heavy machinery for a little while.

    But that was before we saw their second fight — still the best fight of 2011 so far — and also before the unfinished business between the two of them caused a title fight logjam in what is arguably the UFC’s deepest division.

    That makes for at least two reasons why Edgar-Maynard III may be the most anticipated lightweight title fight in recent memory. For one, their second bout was as thrilling as the first was anesthetizing, so there are high hopes for the third. For another, no matter how exciting this rivalry is and who emerges with the UFC 155-pound strap when it’s all over with, the division is dying for them to wrap this up already.

    For those joining this program already in progress, the trouble stems from injuries and uncertainty, though not necessarily in that order. After Maynard won a decision in their first bout, the two met with Edgar’s UFC lightweight title on the line back on Jan. 1 of this year and fought to a draw after five bloody, back-and-forth rounds. The UFC decided it was only fair to give them another 25 minutes to settle it once and for all, but training camp injuries to both men pushed the fight from May to October.

    That might not have been such a big deal if the weight class wasn’t overflowing with talent. Guys like Melvin Guillard, Clay Guida, Ben Henderson — not to mention Strikeforce lightweight champ Gilbert Melendez — have all started to look like potential challengers for the belt in recent months. And yet due to the unresolved issues between Edgar and Maynard, that very belt has spent the last 10 months collecting dust in Edgar’s closet.

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  • Published On Oct 05, 2011
  • Stock Watch: UFC on Versus 6

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    UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz rolled to a convincing points victory over Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson on Saturday in Washington. (AP)

    On rolls Dominick Cruz.

    The UFC bantamweight champ made the fourth defense of his bantamweight belt (the second if you’re just counting the UFC strap, noob) by smothering the hyperactive Demetrious Johnson to earn a unanimous decision Saturday at UFC on Versus 6.

    Sure, there were a few boo birds at Washington, D.C.’s Verizon Center when Cruz kept Johnson grounded, but they were tempered by the surge of two suplexes in the five-rounder. He isn’t a hero just yet, but he’s getting there.

    Meantime, he’s running through the division.

    Welterweight Anthony Johnson also took a step closer to the top five with a first-round blowout of upset artist Charlie Brenneman, and Stefan Struve shuffled off a recent knockout loss to submit Pat Barry.


    Dominick Cruz (19-1): In many ways, a skin of the teeth win for Cruz, but no less impressive. Demetrious Johnson can take pride in pushing the champ to the red line from the opening round — we never see him breathing heavy in the first. Come to think of it, we rarely see him hang out on the mat, but that’s where Cruz needed to take it to slow “Mighty Mouse.” Desperate times call for desperate measures, but really, it was the best way to buck predictions and demoralize the challenger. Unbeknownst to us, Cruz was suffering from a broken left hand taken at some point during the fight. Still, he did what it took to win, all five rounds on two judges’ scorecards. Now, recovery takes top priority, and it looks like the winner of the upcoming Urijah Faber vs. Brian Bowles will be the next challenge. Depending on Cruz’s prognosis, I wouldn’t be shocked if we see an interim title situation arise. Faber is box office gold, and the UFC is lining up for a trilogy. Bowles might have something to say about that.

    Stefan Struve (22-5): Risk management — you can’t be expected to possess much of it as a person, much less a fighter, in your early 20s, but Struve is clearly learning. After sacrificing the considerable gifts his physical stature brought him for high-risk attacks — see Travis Browne at UFC 130 — “Skyscraper” is using his jab, keeping opponents at bay. Well, at least one opponent. The 5-foot-11 Barry could be afforded no opportunity to get on the inside and land a monstrous uppercut, and he never got a significant punch in as Struve kept distance. Just about every MMA nerd watching the fight secretly wanted Barry to powerbomb Struve into oblivion when he locked in a triangle, but alas, an outstretched elbow saved the day when Barry slammed him. That’s what you do, after all, when you’re thinking one second ahead. In MMA, that’s more than enough.

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  • Published On Oct 03, 2011